November 8, 2019

Young Church, heed our Holy Father’s call: ‘Make a ruckus!’

CNS Graphic(Editor’s note: “Make a ruckus!” That’s what Pope Francis implored young people to do in his postsynodal apostolic exhortation, “Christus Vivit” or “Christ is Alive!” which was released following the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “young people, the faith and vocational discernment.” Marian University educators Dr. Arthur D. Canales and Mark Erdosy, and Ricardo Gonzalez, a teacher at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami, have written a three-part essay based on the exhortation, which is both a letter to young people about their place in the Church and a plea to older adults to offer guidance rather than stifle the enthusiasm of the young. We offer the series as the Archdiocese of Indianapolis prepares to host an estimated 20,000 high school youths, youth ministers, adult chaperones and youth-serving organizations during the 2019 National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23. Part one of the series can be found here)

By Dr. Arthur D. Canales, Mark Erdosy and Ricardo Gonzalez (Special to The Criterion)

Part Two: Key themes within the document

There are four key themes within the document:

(a) listening to young people, (b) dialoguing with young people, (c) working toward common ground, and (d) kerygma. It is important to briefly address these four themes.

• Listening to young people: The document is written to young people all over the world ages 16-29. The Holy Father encourages young people to look to the Church for guidance and support, but also for the people of God to guide, mentor and support young people on their journey of faith and life (“Christus Vivit,” #242, #246). Pope Francis beautifully reminds the young Church that they are priceless (#122)! Listening and accompanying young people is a hallmark of Pope Francis’ theology of youth and young adult ministry.

• Dialoguing to young people: Another theme of “Christus Vivit” is the importance of becoming a synodal Church, or a Church that dialogues and walks with young people. An essential first step toward meaningful sharing is to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Pope Francis declares that “we need to make all our institutions better equipped to be more welcoming to young people” (“Christus Vivit,” #216).

Creating an environment where young people can feel at home must become a pastoral priority, such as in youth center nights where young people gather to socialize with peers and have conversation. Another practical way of finding common ground with young people is through small group interaction. Pope Francis suggests loosely structured and non-judgmental sharing environments have the potential “to strengthen social and relational skills,” and can lead to personal stories, concerns, struggles and deep questions which young people often grapple with (#219).

As mentors and faith partners, youth ministers engage young people in a personal quest of naming their faith reality specifically by not providing the answers, but by providing the appropriate questions and religious frame of reference in order to understand their stories with faith practices and Christ’s teachings. The willingness on the part of ministers to share their personal faith can, in time, create the right environment for authentic dialogue and conversation to occur with young people.

• Common ground: The theme of common ground is one that is weaved or threaded throughout “Christus Vivit.” One of the ways that the Holy Father worked on common ground between young people and the rest of the Church was through his discussion of vocation (chapter 8) and discernment (chapter 9) of “Christus Vivit.”

The themes of vocation and discernment give us all a common ground to work toward as sisters and brothers in Christ. Themes such as service, work and love, family, listening and accompaniment are highlighted within these two chapters. Common ground is something that can and should be accomplished if the Church, as a whole, upholds young people as an important and necessary part of the universal Church.

• Kerygma: Another major theme of “Christus Vivit” is the importance of the kerygma or proclamation of Jesus Christ (#213).

At the National Dialogue Conference this past summer, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., stated that the essential message of the kerygma can be best expressed in the memorial acclamation in the Catholic liturgy: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

While it was made abundantly clear by the various speakers and panelists that sharing the faith tradition with others is important, personal witness has always been presented as the most effective presentation of the kerygma more than any eloquent exposition of faith.

Ministers of young people must, according to Pope Francis, “Be witnesses to the Gospel wherever they find themselves, by the way they live” (#175).

As part of this culture of encounter described earlier, ministers must prioritize sharing personal faith in the formation process of young people. Sharing one’s faith story is the most effective way to show young people that everyone is on their journey toward becoming disciples of Jesus.

Next week: Our tasks as Catholics

(Dr. Arthur D. Canales is associate professor of pastoral theology and ministry at Marian University in Indianapolis and an expert on Catholic youth and young adult ministry. Mark Erdosy is the executive director of the San Damiano Scholars Program at Marian University, and a specialist on discernment and vocation. Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez is a theology teacher at Monsignor Edward Pace Catholic High School in Miami who has more than 20 years of Catholic teaching and youth ministry under his belt. All three have been part of the National Dialogue on Youth and Young Adults since its inception in 2017 and were part of the National Dialogue Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, this past summer.)

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